A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Guggul is basically an adhesive resin exuded by the trunk of the mukul myrrh tree (botanical name Commiphora mukul) that is a flowering plant belonging to the family Burseraceae. Mukul myrrh tree is an average-sized tree or a shrub with thorns. This species is most likely to be found growing naturally in a vast region spread from the northern parts of Africa to central Asia. In fact, mukul myrrh tree is widespread in the northern regions of India.
The mukul myrrh tree has a preference for dry and partially dry climatic conditions and has the aptitude to tolerate inferior soil quality. This tree or shrub grows up to an utmost height of 4 meters and has a thin, paper-like bark. The branches of this plant are thorny. The leaves of this plant are simple or have three lobes, each leaflet having an oval shape and growing up to anything between 1 cm and 5 cm in length and 0.5 cm to 2.5 cm in width. The leaves of mukul myrrh tree have uneven teeth along the margin. Plants of this species are gynodioecious in nature, as some plants have flowers of both sexes or only male flowers, while others have only female flowers. Each flower of this herb has four little petals whose color may vary from red to pink. As mentioned earlier, guggul as well as gum guggul are actually the names of the yellow-hued resin exuded by the trunk of mukul myrrh tree. This resin of the plant forms the resource of the extracts obtained from guggul available in the market these days.
It may be noted that even Ayurveda, the ancient Indian herbal medicine stream, held the gum exuded by mukul myrrh tree (guggul) owing to its therapeutic attributes. In effect, guggul is present in the ducts situated inside the soft bark of this plant. Guggul is obtained by means of a process known as tapping. To obtain this resin, rounded cuts or incisions are made on the principal stem of the tree, which do not go further than the width of the bark. A light yellowish, fragrant fluid comes out of the incisions made on the bark of the tree that rapidly turns into a solid having a golden brown or reddish brown accumulation of tears or something akin to the stalactic (conical columns formed inside some caves) pieces. When this resin becomes dehydrated, it has an aromatic, but pungent flavor with a smell that is balsamic.
Guggul is actually employed as guggulsterones, a processed extract of the resin obtained from mukul myrrh tree, to avoid diarrhea as well as uneasiness in the abdomen. The standard dosage of guggulsterone is taking 25 mg of the refined extract thrice daily. In effect, one may also purchase the processed extract of guggul in the form of tinctures. Apart from this, it is also available as blends with other substances that are healthy for the heart, for instance niacin and/ or inositol and hawthorn.
Over the ages, guggul has been employed for treating a number of health conditions. For instance, this resin exuded by the trunk of the mukul myrrh tree has been traditionally employed to reduce the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood stream. In addition, this herbal product has also been used to cure obesity as well as arthritis. In Ayurvedic medicine, guggul is used to promote blood circulation by encouraging healthy flow of blood to the skin as well as through the veins. A few condition specific uses of guggul are described in brief below.
Findings of several clinical experiments undertaken in India showed that approximately 75 per cent of individuals using guggulsterones regularly for about three months experienced their triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels decline by anything between 20 and 25 per cent. Nearly 50 per cent of the individuals who used this herbal product for three months also experienced elevated levels of HDL or high density lipoprotein. In addition, clinical studies conducted in India have also discovered that guggulsterones are particularly beneficial for individuals who endure high blood cholesterol levels owing to kidney ailments.
People have also been using guggulsterones to treat arthritis for several years now. Contemporary scientific studies have also detected that guggul also possesses the aptitude to put off heart attacks.
In addition, it has also been testified that guggulsterones also possess distinct antioxidant actions and help to protect the vital superoxide dismutase (SOD) - an enzyme that scavenges the harmful free radicals produced by our body and maintains it at an elevated level. In fact, SOD shields the heart as it scavenges the destructive superoxide radicals as well as putting off oxidative harm to the heart muscles. Several other researches have also suggested that guggul gum caused a distinct turnaround of the metabolic modifications taking place in individuals enduring lower blood supply to the heart - a condition known as ischemia.
It may be noted that guggul is sought and held in esteem for its adhesive resin that is collected from the bark of the plant by means of a process known as tapping. Guggul is also cultivated commercially in places like India and Pakistan. The resin exuded by the bark of the guggul or mukul myrrh tree is called gum guggulu and it possesses an aroma akin to that of myrrh and, hence, it is extensively used in the manufacture of perfumes and incense. In effect, gum guggulu is the product, which was known in ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin as bdellium.
One may purchase guggul in loosely packed form known as ‘dhoop' - incense widely available in India and blazed over burning coals. Burning guggul on hot coal gives rise to a dense, aromatic smoke. This smoke is usually taken around to various rooms in the house and held in all the corners of the rooms for some time. People are of the belief that the smoke helps to repulse evil spirits and also do away with all evil eyes on the home as well as its inhabitants and keeps them safe and healthy.
Guggul (an extract of the Mukul myrrh tree) contains:
Side effects and cautions
Although guggul is comparatively safe as a herbal medication, taking unrefined or unprocessed extracts of the resin obtained from the mukul myrrh plant may result in a number of side effects like diarrhea, restiveness, nervousness and even skin rashes. Guggul is believed to be an emenogogue (any medication that encourages menstrual flow) as well as a stimulant for the uterus. Here is a word of caution: this herb should never be given to women during pregnancy.
In addition, patients who are now taking prescription drugs for cardiovascular ailments are also advised to take this herbal product with caution. It is never advisable to use unrefined guggul, as it may result in a number of side effects, such as skin rashes, loss of appetite, nausea as well as diarrhea. In addition, people who are enduring irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or Crohn's disease also ought to exercise caution while using guggul. People who are taking any beta-blocker, particularly propranolol (sold under brand names Inderide and Inderal) or calcium channel blockers, particularly diltiazem (Cardizem), for treating high blood pressure, should avoid guggul since this herbal product may reduce the body's capacity to absorb these medications. It is also advisable that people suffering from any inflammatory bowel malady or liver ailment should use guggul with precaution.
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